The Last Colony

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Ali Salem Salma, 41, statistician for the Saharawi government, pictured watching TV at home with his wife, Nabba, and four year old son, Khadda, in Smara refugee camp, Algeria...I was born in El Aaiún in October 1968. In 1975 we built a house in Zemla, a neighbourhood of the city. At the end of 75 Morocco invaded our cities during the 'green march' and the Moroccan soldiers told us to leave our house. Moroccan civilians moved into all the homes. We spent six months travelling to Algeria to the refugee camps and we are still here. We still have a key to our house we even have papers to prove it belongs to us. When we first came to Algeria there was nothing here and I remember many children dying. Many families sent their children away to study in different countries, even children who were only three years old. ..I went to Libya in 1976 with a lot of other boys and girls, about eight hundred. We took buses for many days and arrived in Tripoli. They were good to us and really helped us with food and clothes and educated us very well. I went to university in Algeria and in 1992 graduated with a degree in statistics and returned to the camps to work for the Saharawi government. Our lives here are simple, we know there are better ways to live but we must be very well organised in order to survive here. Now I send my children to school and maybe they can travel to study at a university but even if they get a degree they will return here and have nothing because there is no possibility of a job...I know we agreed to a ceasefire and the international circumstances have obliged us to respect it. But I believe, and I am not the only one, that the only way to get our freedom is by war. We know the UN cannot impose anything and are a weak organisation. Most of their decisions are not applied or listened to. We are here in this land and it does not belong to the Saharawi and everybody knows we will not integrate or be part of Morocco. We believe the only organisation is the Fren